Birthday Month Reading Wrap-up 2019

Saturday, August 31, 2019
July was such a disappointing reading month as I DNF'd six books and for the first time in two years, I wasn't able to finish a book of 500 pages. I didn't want my birthday month books to follow the same pattern and thankfully it didn't! I read much more than the previous month, I didn't DNF anything and I managed to read quite a few longer books as well as books that I loved. I was able to read 15 books in August which I'm very happy with! My favourite books of the month include: A History Of Magic, Kim Reaper and The Devouring Gray.

*Magic For Liars by Sarah Gailey (336 pages) ★★★ (3.75)
Before I review this book, let's just look at the gorgeously colourful and unique cover - I love it! I was initially intrigued by this book as it is set in a magical school and who doesn't want to read about a magical school. We follow Ivy Gamble, a private investigator, who is asked to investigate a supposed murder at the private magical school in which her sister is a teacher. It sounds like the perfect book for me as it involves murder, mystery and best of all, magic! The murder mystery is the main crux of the story but it looks into the difficult relationship between the sisters, the relationship between various students, the struggles within Ivy's life/job and what Ivy's life would have been like if she'd also developed an ability for magic as her sister did. It does contain elements of grief, cancer, loss, abortion and difficult relationships, if those are topics you are avoiding.

I'll start with the positives which naturally include the incredible cover as well as the quick, easy writing style, the magical school setting, the mystery of what happened to the potentially murdered teacher and the magic, the latter two points were always going to be my favourite aspects of this book. It was also a fairly quick read, it felt very vivid and I think it would make an amazing TV series. The magic wasn't really explained but I did like how it was presented - it made for a more surreal (slightly sci-fi) magic system. However, it took me much longer to get into the book and I didn't instantly love it as I thought I would. I think my expectations were a little too high but I would definitely recommend it if it sounds like something you'd enjoy.

Vampires: The Myths, Legends and Lore by Aubrey Sherman (226 pages) ★★★
The first non-fiction read I finish in August was one all about vampires and the folktales, legends and myths surrounding them from various cultures as vampire myths aren't just from Eastern Europe, as I thought. I liked the very short chapters, quick writing style and the easy nature of the book as well as all of the interesting facts about the folklore of the various countries mentioned. I think that the history and lore of supernatural creature is very interesting and it's fascinating how people of the past viewed magic and the supernatural, whereas today we would view it though the lens of science.

While I did find it to be a very quick, easy and entertaining non-fiction read, I didn't like the repetitive nature of the book, the constant spoilers and quotes from Dracula by Bram Stoker (which I know is an important aspect of the folklore of vampires but it was just too much) and the media interpretation wasn't as interesting to me compared to the history. Overall, I'd recommend it if you are interested in the topic but it was a little disappointing, if I'm honest - thankfully it was free on Kindle Unlimited.

Saga Volume One by Brian K Vaughan (160 pages) ★★★
I'm not usually someone who wants to read graphic novels or comic books as the ones I've read over the past three years have just been a little boring and disappointing but as I do have a Kindle Unlimited trial, I wanted to take advantage and read some of the super popular graphic novels as they were free with the subscription. In Saga we follow a couple from different worlds who are currently at war so when they have a baby, it sparks even more violence and a hunt for the new family. Even though I'm not a huge fan of graphic novels or science fiction...I liked Saga Volume One on the whole which is a little surprising. I loved the art style, it was pretty easy to follow and it was entertaining as well as a very quick read. My only negatives were the incredibly cheesy dialogue at times which definitely put down it's rating for me.
The Raven's Head by Karen Maitland (500 pages) ★★★ (3.5) 
This book was supposed to be my 'long' book for the month of July but I only finished 40% in July and the rest in August. It's the fourth Karen Maitland book I've read and as with her other reads, it has a certain dark, atmospheric and eerie tone to it combined with dark humour and vivid characters which is a mixture I adore. Also as with her other books, it's gruesome at times, very dark and there are numerous storylines, timelines and characters to follow which all interweave throughout the book.

We follow Gisa (an apothecaries niece), Vincent/Laurent (a teenage boy working as a scribe within a powerful French household) and Regulus (a boy taken from his parents because he is thought to become someone powerful). The threads of the storylines never become confusing and each character is very distinctive and vivid in their own right which is something I've found to be true within all of her books. She manages to create a gritty, dark world with a hint of magic throughout it and a storyline that weaves through the lives of the various vivid main characters so seamlessly. I liked the alchemy elements of the story along with the mysteries, intertwining characters and the dark foreboding nature of the book. However, as with a couple of her other books, it was just a little drawn out and too slow, in my opinion. Although I would still highly recommend all of her books!

Carmilla and Laura by S.D Simper (156 pages) ★★★ 
As I have Kindle Unlimited free for the next three months, I wanted to take advantage and read more of their free selection, one of which was this supernatural historical fiction read which is inspired by the famous classic vampire novella, Carmilla, by Joseph Sheridan Le Fenu (1872). Within this retelling we follow Laura, a bored aristocratic young woman living with her doting father as she encounters another young woman with a mysterious past who not only changes her life but her death too.

I loved the setting, time period, eerie atmosphere and the relationship between Laura and the mysterious Carmilla. It was a very quick read that I finished in one day, it was quite dark and spooky at times and it was entertaining but it was just a little predictable and simple at times. I wish it had more depth as well as a more detailed and richer historic background.

*Wonderland: An Anthology (384 pages) ★★★
Alice in Wonderland was one of my favourite animated films growing up so whenever I see an Alice In Wonderland adaptation, I have to read it or watch it (such as the Alice duology from Christina Henry). This beautiful ARC was very kindly sent to me from Titan Books and it contains a selection of tales inspired by Alice In Wonderland from a variety of authors. Some of the stories are shorter than others, some are more enjoyable and others are more directly inspired by the original so for me (as with all of the other short story collections I've read), it's a bit of a mixed bag, as you might expect. My favourites were by M.R Carey, Genevieve Cogman and Mckinney.

Overall, while I adore the concept, the quick nature of short story collections, the ability to experience various authors works in one book and the gorgeous cover, I think that short story collections and anthologies just aren't for me as I find them to be bitty and they feel incomplete sadly. However, I did enjoy it on the whole and I think that so many people will absolutely adore this collection.

Kim Reaper Volume One by Sarah Graley (113 pages) ★★★ (3.5)
My favourite graphic novel for August was definitely Kim Reaper which is one of the most adorable graphic novels I've ever read! We follow Kim, a university student, who is also a grim reaper in training as she is confronted by her crush, Becka, while doing her job. The adventure that follows involves zombies, cats, cake, a haunted pirate ship and more, including the most adorable F/F friendship and romance. I adored almost everything about this graphic novel from the cute illustrations, relatable (mostly) dialogue, the cute relationship, entertaining adventure, the colour palette, halloween vibes and the humour. My only negative was that it was quite cheesy at times but it did suit the nature of this story though. I'm still not a huge fan of graphic novels but this one has definitely been my favourite so far.
A History of Magic (256 pages) ★★★★
This huge non-fiction read accompanied the exhibition at the British Library a few years ago that I wanted to see but couldn't so I think this book is a great alternative. The book switches between explanations of the various items, creatures and magical aspects of the HP series (such an the history of alchemy, cauldrons, mythical creatures, plants and more), along with sketches by Jim Kay (who is incredibly talented) and drafts, notes and illustrations from J.K Rowling.

I love the cover, the naked hardback and the incredible illustrations throughout the entire book. I adore history so naturally I loved those aspects of this book but I also found the sections about the Harry Potter creation process, from the early drafts, illustrations and writing process to deleted scenes and author thoughts to be very interesting too as it's something I haven't read before. If you're a Harry Potter fan as I am and you love history then I think you'll adore this book!

Harry Potter: A Journey Through Charms and Defence Against The Dark Arts (63 pages)
Along with the graphic novels I finished in August, I also read a couple of Harry Potter themed short non-fiction reads thanks to my Kindle Unlimited trial. This very quick read looks at some of the aspects of the Harry Potter world such as charms, spells, brooms, platform 9¾ and more. While I did know some of the information due to my previous reading, it was still an interesting, easy non-fiction read that I would recommend if you can read it for free with a Kindle Unlimited trial - that goes for all of the short reads and graphic novels this month.

Hogwarts: An Incomplete and Unreliable History (79 pages) ★★★ 
The second and final Harry Potter themed non-fiction read for August was all about the secrets of Hogwarts, the ghosts and the houses. It was a very quick, interesting read with some information about the writing process and J.K Rowling's thoughts on various aspects of the series. As with all of these mini Harry Potter themed books (I think there are six), they are quite similar and repetitive but again, if you can read them for free then go ahead!

Memento Mori - What The Romans Can Tell Us About Old Age and Death by Peter Jones (224 pages) ★★★
My initial TBR for August didn't go to plan as I wanted to read the books I bought with birthday money and gift cards instead - one of those books was this non-fiction read all about roman views on ageing, death, suicide and all of the illnesses, problems and potential advantages of being old. It also looks into the roman view of child mortality (which was heartbreaking to read), the death of a variety of famous romans (such as the emperor Nero) and a plethora of statistics around mortality rates, gladiator deaths and population size.

I have to admit that I chose to buy this book with one of my birthday gift cards because of the gorgeous cover and it's a topic I find to be incredible interesting. While I liked the quick nature of the book, the short chapters and the interesting facts/ wasn't what I expected. It didn't have any flow and it just seemed to be facts and statistics stitched together like a lazy university essay, if I'm honest. While I did find it interesting on the whole, it was just disappointing and I don't think I'd really recommend it unfortunately.

The Devouring Gray by Christine Lynn Herman (400 pages) ★★★ (3.75)
Another birthday book was this YA paranormal fantasy with horror/halloween elements and a variety of LGBT characters. I've heard great things about this book and my edition has pink sprayed edges - yes! We follow Violet Saunders and her mother as they move back to her family's hometown of Four Paths, New York, as an escape from their grief after the death of Violet's sister. Four Paths and its mysterious residents reveal not only a family past Violet never knew about but also secrets about her mother, the history of the town and a disturbing monster that has been killing the its residents.

I tend to read YA books very quickly as the writing and dialogue are usually a little simplistic (not in a bad way) and this one was no different. I read all of this book in one day as I didn't want to put it down, it's the book equivalent of fast food or candy. I adored the eerie tone, the mysteries and the colonial/historic town feel along with the atmospheric setting of 'the gray' and the characters relationships. Thankfully romance didn't play a huge role in the book which is refreshing for a YA novel but I did like the inclusion of a couple of relationships and numerous bisexual characters.

One of my favourite settings for books, movies or TV shows is a Sleepy Hollow kind of setting and that's what this book had to me so I adored each page of this book. The setting, supernatural elements, magic, mysteries and the monster were all amazing! It was a very quick, easy and thoroughly enjoyable read that I cannot recommend enough, especially as autumn is approaching. It's the kind of book in which I won't remember any of the characters names after finishing the book but I'll remember the wonderfully eerie/halloween vibe, the creepy monster and the mysterious, intriguing plot. I definitely want to read more books with a similar setting and tone!
1066 and Before All That by Ed West (184 pages) ★★★ 
Another free Kindle Unlimited book was this short, condensed history of one of the most important years in English history and the events leading up to the invasion. I love short, quick and easy to follow non-fiction reads focusing on specific topics or specific periods in time so this book ticked most of the boxes. I liked the easy tone of the book, it didn't feel academic and it was a fairly quick read. Naturally within my secondary school education I did learn about the battle of Hastings; however not in much detail so it was definitely interesting to not only find out more about the battle itself but also the main individuals involved, the events leading up to the conflict, the aftermath and about the lives of the kings and lords who were the main individuals in power (in England, France and Norway) at the time. It definitely included a fair amount of information that I wasn't aware of and I think it would be a great refresher for those who have also briefly studied this period of English history previously. However, I think that if you aren't aware of this battle or English history at this time then it may be a little confusing. 

The Wicked and the Divine: Volume One (180 pages) ★★ 
The final graphic novel I read in August and another one that was free (thankfully) with my Kindle Unlimited trial was one I've been intrigued by for a couple of years. In The Wicked and the Divine we follow the gods as they are transformed into humans every ninety years and the conflict between them...that's the premise but the reality is that it's very odd, abstract and thoroughly confusing. I didn't understand what was happening most of the time, it was quite cheesy and I just didn't get it. I initially rated it three stars but on reflection, I knocked it down to a two star read for me as I just didn't see the point of it, if I'm honest. I will say that I adored the art style and it was a quick read but those are my only positives sadly. Thankfully it was free on Kindle Unlimited so if you have a trial then check it out for free but if not, don't spend your money on it. 

*Homo Sapiens: A Very Brief History by Silvana Condemi (160 pages) ★★★
The last book I fully finished in August was a short non-fiction ARC I was sent via Netgalley. As I've said, I love quick and easy non-fiction reads that focus on a specific topic so I'm always happy to read more of those. In this read we follow the history of the Homo Sapiens genus and its predecessors, a timeline of evolution, migration paths and how Homo Sapiens evolved to be the way we are now. The topic of human evolution for most people, myself included, can be a little confusing as there's so much information but this short book explains the topic in a concise, easy to follow but also academic  way that I loved. I like the numerous diagrams and charts throughout the book, the short chapters and the easy writing style - highly recommend.

Have you read any of these books? 


*Tips On Finding The Right Landlord

Wednesday, August 28, 2019
Image from Cherished Bliss
Renting is the perfect low-maintenance living choice for so many people - especially in this day and age where getting on the housing ladder can be super expensive and let’s face it, kinda out of reach. As well as finding the right property to move into and make your own, it’s just as important to find the right landlord that you can see yourself having a happy and harmonious relationship with. Your landlord could be the difference between a hassle-free tenancy, or a stressful time that can drive you out of your home for good!

What kind of landlord would suit me?
There’s a few different types of landlord out there. Some landlords are large corporations with a lot of properties, such as in an apartment complex. Some might have a handful of properties and others could just have one, and you may be their only tenant. There’s pro’s and con’s to all of these eventualities, so you need to decide which would suit you best. With a corporation, it can be difficult to pin down just one point of contact which can make communicating issues quite tricky. On the other hand, they’re often very experienced and the properties are usually of a high quality.

You’ll probably have a more personable relationship with a smaller landlord. Again, there’s both pro’s and con’s to this. A respectful landlord should know when to step back and leave you to your own devices - no one wants a landlord to be looking over your shoulder all the time. When you’re their only tenant - although most landlords will know their boundaries - you might feel a little like you’re under a microscope.

Research your landlord
When you’ve found a potential landlord, it’s so important to research them. A good, reputable landlord will be accredited by one of the major landlord associations in the UK such as the National Landlord Association or the Residential Landlord Association. If a landlord is a member of one of these, they had to undergo an education course in order to earn their membership. They also have to abide by a certain code of conduct in order to retain their membership, so you can feel comfortable that you’re going with someone who knows what they’re doing!

Obviously, that doesn’t always mean that they will be the perfect landlord. You’ve probably heard all sorts of horror stories about rogue landlords and it’s probably one of the main reasons that people are put off by renting. If you can get in touch with anyone who currently rents from the landlord or has rented from them in the past, then that’s an extra bit of peace of mind.

Red flags
Above all, a landlord should be professional, kind and approachable. When you speak, they should listen. When you ask a question, they should answer it properly and not withhold any information and skirt around topics. Doing this should raise a few red flags. If a landlord is honest with you about things like temperature fluctuations in the property, phone reception issues or noisy neighbours, then you can safely assume they can be trusted. If all they seem to care about is getting you to sign on the dotted line, then it might be best to move on and keep looking.

When you meet a landlord, be prepared with questions so that you can get to know them a little better. Ask them how they became a landlord, what they like about it, what’s important to them in a tenant… Ideally, they will be comfortable chatting and letting you get to know them. It’s so important to find a landlord that you like and will be comfortable going to with any issues.

Be in-the-know 
A landlord should follow all the correct processes and protocol. If you’re unaware of these, it’s difficult to monitor whether your landlord is being professional and doing their duties. Clue yourself up a little on the basics to ensure that you’re being given all the right paperwork, your tenancy agreement looks legit and that your deposit has been, or will be, protected with a tenancy deposit scheme.

Your landlord should also have all the correct insurance in place, to protect themselves against financial issues such as major repairs and legal fees that could also impact on their tenants. It’s worth taking a look at a company such as CIA Landlord Insurance to become familiar with the kind of cover landlord’s should have. It’s easy to have the wool pulled under your eyes when you put your trust into someone else. Remember, you’re entering into a legally binding agreement with your landlord, so make sure they’re the right one for you.

Do you have any tips or advice?


*Five Tips To Be More Green

Tuesday, August 27, 2019
Reduce your plastic waste 
It’s an obvious one, and something even big brands are acknowledging. Plastic waste is a huge problem. You can help cut it down dramatically by making a few simple swaps and just think, if everyone decided to swap their plastic bags for reusable ones, how much could be saved and not end up in land fill. To make it easy I’ve written a few simple swaps below:

• Wooden toothbrush instead of a plastic toothbrush
• A glass travel mug instead of disposable mug (These often have plastic coatings)
• Bring your own cutlery instead of using plastic ones
• Cloth beeswax wraps instead of clingfilm Or even better, consider doing your weekly shop in a zero-waste supermarket!

Consider your travel options 
Have you ever considered swapping your car for a bus ride? It’s actually quite a relaxing and hassle-free alternative. Get collected from the stop, read a book, browse the internet or listen to music then simply get dropped off! All the time you’re saving on all those additional car fumes entering the atmosphere whilst getting some extra you time. Maybe you want to boost your exercise and fancy a bike ride in the morning? Then investing in a bike would be a perfect option. All the while you can get in a small workout during your standard commute. If taking a bus or cycling isn’t an option, ask around at work to see if anyone would consider a car share. There’s some fabulous schemes and initiatives run by many companies. You can even save some money on petrol at the same time!

Get bathroom savvy 
Excessive water usage essentially means more treatment is needed to pump and clean the water we are using. This uses energy which in turn has a negative impact on our environment. By reducing the amount of energy we use, it will help to reduce carbon emissions, which also contribute to greenhouse gasses. With a few simple switches you can easily make your bathroom greener and reduce your water wastage. They’re a number of products on the market which are not only greener but also have the added bonus of being super savvy and convenient too.

Smarter taps are all the rage featuring handy voice activated showers, personal preferences and recorded shower times. This gives you the option to reduce your water usage by cutting your shower time and after some time, the water saved could really mount up. Another great swap would be to consider using a dual flush toilet cistern. This gives you an option to reduce your water usage by selecting a relevant flush too.

Recycle and reuse 
‘Make do and mend’ is quite an old saying but in recent years it’s become popular again. This is seen especially around a social media. People are making the most of their items such as clothes, food and products rather than replacing them over and over. Big trends are circulating where people are no longer shopping for new clothes as they buy second hand. They also refuse to throw an item away without double checking it can’t be repaired or given to someone else first. It’s quite a fabulous mindset to have and makes you fully appreciate the items you own.

So, a few simple tips would be to write a list of the items you need. Can you get this in a charity shop? Or from a friend? Secondly id always suggest reducing your spending to a set amount a month, and only spending this on essential items, you may save a fair bit of cash too. And thirdly, before it goes into the bin, is there anything else you could do with that item? A great one for old clothes too would be to cut it into smaller pieces and use as rags for cleaning! Or even make yourself a handy patchwork quilt. The options are endless.

Love your leftovers 
This one’s for food lovers and also one for people who just hate throwing away food. Food waste is huge in the UK and its completely unnecessary. If you keep an eye on your best before dates and also plan your meals ahead you will massively reduce the amount of food waste within your home. When you go to the supermarket don’t mass buy fresh food that you may not eat and instead of getting that huge bag of carrots, buy the amount you need for the week only. If you do cook too much and have some leftovers, they’re a ton of meal ideas you can create so nothing ends up in the bin. Package then up for the next day or look at the meal options below, all of which are perfect and easy to make with your leftovers.

• Pasta bake
• Stir-fry
• Soup
• Pizza
• Frittata, omelettes or quiche
• Fried rice
• Pie (Including shepherd’s pie, cottage pie and classic meat or vegetable pie)
• Sandwiches
• Bubble and squeak And if you really can’t make something of your leftovers.

Consider composting it!

Have you made any changes to live a more 'green' lifestyle? 


*Home Security + Home Technology

Sunday, August 25, 2019
Today's post is a little different to my usual content but it's something I've been thinking about more and that we've been investing in as well - home security and home technology. We've recently had Hive installed and added a couple of wifi lightbulbs and heating which has been amazing. Additionally, we're thinking about buying a wildlife camera for the garden as well as an outdoor security camera too.

Wildlife Cameras
I may have been watching a little too much spring watch (like the premature grandma that I am) but I started looking into wildlife cameras that you can install within your garden to monitor the wildlife or pets that roam around. I live in a suburban area but we are surrounded by countless gardens and a woodland area so we regularly receive visitors such as squirrels, hedgehogs and countless adorable birds as well as bats and foxes. Over the past couple of months we've noticed holes in the grass and around the decking so I think a wildlife camera would be perfect to find out which little critter is causing it and as I'm just curious about what wildlife inhabits our garden. If you have one, let me know which is the best one to buy as there are so many to choose from!

Wifi Lightbulbs + Heating
I've already mentioned that we switched to Hive this year and I cannot recommend it enough! We use the Hive app to control the heating and a couple of the main lights within the house. It was especially useful during the winter months as we could switch on the heating on the way home so that it would be toasty and warm when we opened the door.

The lights can be on a schedule so you can have them turn on or off whenever you want which would be perfect if you were going away for the weekend or on holiday rather than trying to work out fiddly manual timers. The Hive system isn't very expensive in terms of the installation and the lightbulbs are fairly inexpensive as well (for what they are) so if you are thinking about using wifi lightbulbs or the Hive system then I can't recommend it enough.

Last but not least, we have been thinking about buying CCTV or an outdoor security system as while we don't live in an area that is prone to constant break-ins or criminal activity, it is still something to consider. I think that Hive offer a front door camera system which might be something we look into later this year. One option that would be ideal to look into if you have a business in London would be T-Class Security which is one of the best security companies in London. They offer numerous services such as CCTV monitoring, corporate guarding, key holding, door supervision and close protection in London, among other services.

Have you thought about home or business security such as CCTV? Do you have any home tech or home security in place? 


My Experience Of Laser Eye Surgery: Part One

Thursday, August 22, 2019
I'll give you a bit of background information on my vision to begin with! I had to start wearing glasses for distance at around the age of fourteen and then at seventeen I decided to switch to contact lenses as I hated the way I looked wearing glasses, for the most part. I was very happy wearing lenses up to about two years ago when I started learning to drive and my eyes became very dry so I started vaguely thinking about laser eye surgery while trying other contact lenses to help with the dryness.

Looking For A Clinic 
Last year I went through the process of trying three to four different contact lens brands to find one that would suit my dry eyes more than the lenses I was used to wearing for years but over time they became more and more uncomfortable so I then started looking at various laser eye surgery options near me. Places like Optimax are the most common where I live in Manchester so naturally I looked into those first and they seem like great places to go to but I still wasn't sure.

*I would like to note that the best contact lenses options I have found for very dry eyes were the daily moist lenses from Acuvue via Scrivens which I cannot recommend enough*

Eventually I came across LaserVision which is a private clinic within Manchester Royal Eye Hospital - one of the best eye hospitals in the UK. For me, a private clinic within a fantastic eye hospital seemed like the most ideal (and possibly the safest) option for laser eye surgery so I booked in for a consultation which was £75 but that amount can be taken off the price of the surgery if you go ahead with them.

Consultation, Tests & Price
I feel as though the tests I had were very detailed and other clinics might not be quite as detailed or as comprehensive. The first test involved measurements which was very quick and non-invasive. Then I went to the optometrist who gave me a basic eye test (similar to the one you'd have at a high street optometrist). They then added dilating drops into my eyes which was necessary for further tests, however, they sting so much and made me eyes look very alien as well as red and sensitive to light.

After the optometrist, I was passed onto the nurse who explained the two types of laser eye surgery available (LASIK and LASEK) as well as testing the 'quality of my tears' which is a selection of words that I never thought I'd hear together. She applied anaesthetic drops and placed pieces of paper in my eyes to measure the dryness. It turns out that my tears aren't very good and my eyes are extremely dry which would explain why my usual contact lenses felt so uncomfortable in my eyes. Again, if you do want lenses then I can't recommend the Acuvue Moist lenses enough and the Scrivens contact lens program!

Lastly I visited the surgeon who confirmed that I was suitable for both LASIK and LASEK but he recommended that I use drops, night ointments, an eye mask and antibiotics to alleviate the dryness before the surgery which makes sense as you'd want to start with your eyes in the best possible condition beforehand so you will have the best outcome. I didn't expect a two month wait or antibiotics after the consultation but I'm glad that they were focused on care and ensuring the best outcome rather than just focusing on money and the number of patients they get through the doors, which was very reassuring.

The surgeon also recommended adding flaxseeds to my diet as they are a vegan source of omega 3 which is essential for eye health. I also received a price for my surgery which was definitely much more than the average prices I've seen online (or heard from others who had already experienced laser eye surgery) as mine was £3,800. The price will differ per person as it depends on which clinic you go to, the type of laser eye surgery you want and your prescription, so if you are looking into laser eye surgery then your price will probably be different to mine.

Drops, Ointments & Eye Mask
I started using eye drops every day along with a night ointment every other night and a heated eye mask. I used the drops four times per day and I feel as though they made such a difference after only a week of using them. I also bought the night ointment the surgeon recommended which contained lanolin (fat from sheeps wool) which naturally being vegan I didn't want to use but being vegan is about minimising harm to animals as much as you can and sometimes compromises have to be made when it comes to medication and your health. Although thankfully I've now found an eye gel (Viscotears) that doesn't contain lanolin and it's far better.

The surgery I had was Bilateral Intralase LASIK with wavefront which sounds quite complicated but I believe that it's just an accurate, up to date version of LASIK. I had the surgery on the 31st July at 5:15pm at the LaserVision clinic in MREH. It was the last appointment of the day and I'm so glad
 I chose that option as it meant that there were less people in the hospital and clinic, it was less stressful and I didn't have to rush to my appointment. The first step on the day was filling out the consent form and having a final consultation about the risks involved as even though it is a common procedure, it still carries numerous risks (as any surgery does) that need to be fully considered beforehand.

Firstly, my hair had to be covered and my face and eyes cleaned by one of the nurses with iodine to prevent infection then aesthetic drops were dispensed into my eyes. Next up, the walk to the ominously sounding 'laser room' in which I had to lie down, more drops were added and then the procedure could begin. I have to admit that up to this point, I was quite anxious but as with most things, when I'm in a situation, I become quite calm which is thankfully what happened.

Skip ahead to the aftercare section if you are a little squeamish!

The first step in the LASIK process is to create a flap which the surgeon can then lift for the second laser to reshape the cornea that in turn corrects your prescription. The booklet I received explaining the process wasn't as detailed as I'd wanted it to be (I'm the kind of person who needs to know every little detail beforehand, whether it's an event, an exam or an operation) so I was a little confused initially as a plastic ring (that's the best way I can describe it as I couldn't really see it) was placed on my left eye. I believe it's a template for the laser the cut the flap but I might be wrong.

After the plastic ring was in place (which was uncomfortable, although not painful due to the drops), the overhead laser was lowered down onto my eye and seemed to attach to the ring with an almost suction-like feeling/pressure which again was very uncomfortable. I'd read that the process of LASIK wasn't painful but that it would cause pressure to be felt and to be honest, that's a massive understatement as the pressure was quite...intense and extremely uncomfortable. This section of the surgery also caused my vision to blur and then become fully dark - it was such an unusual feeling and more than a little disconcerting. This flap creating process felt like it took so long but it was only a few minutes for both eyes.

Before the second laser could begin to reshape my cornea, the flap that was created had to be lifted with an almost dentist-like tool by the surgeon which felt very odd and again, it wasn't painful but it was definitely an unpleasant sensation and sight, especially with my left eye as the flap had become sticky and didn't want to be lifted - this is normal and it's because the cells want to knit back together and heal. It was also very strange feeling this layer of my eye resting against my eyelashes as well as the blurred vision I experienced. This second part of the process was the least uncomfortable (surprisingly) but as the laser was working, I could smell a distinct burning scent which was the cells of my eye being burned...yeah, the technology of laser eye surgery might be amazing, the results are fantastic and it is a common operation that so many people have gone through but that doesn't take away from the fact that it is an operation with risks and it is a extremely unpleasant, very uncomfortable experience, for me at least.

After the laser had worked it's magic, my eyes were rinsed with water and the surgeon looked at my eyes with a piece of equipment you'd find at your local opticians and he said that the operation had gone well and his student also looked at my eyes, commenting that the redness would go away. I had no idea what she was talking about as I hadn't been able to see my eyes yet and I didn't until the next day.

Following the surgery, one of the sweetest nurses I'd encountered at the clinic then cleaned my eyes, face and put on the very unglamourous clear plastic eye patches for me to wear for the rest of the day and to sleep in for the next two weeks. The no-makeup, red eyes and fairly ugly eye patches made for a look I won't be re-creating anytime soon.

After being given a tonne of eye drops, sleeping tablets and painkillers, I was driven home and for the entire journey I had my eyes closed, the patches on and my hands shielding my eyes from the fading sun as the tiniest amount of light was very uncomfortable (bordering on painful) as the aesthetic drops seemed to wear off extremely quickly for me. My eyes immediately after the surgery felt like I had sand them and they felt horrendously dry and very sore so I had to spend the next few hours before bed in near darkness (including while eating which was an unusual experience). I never take painkillers (for anything) but I did take one co-codamol tablet and one sleeping tablet before getting an early night for my eyes to start the healing process.

The Next Day, After Care & Follow Up Appointments
The next morning I removed the patches and I was able to see clearly and perfectly for the first time since I was a was incredible! I could see car registration plates down the street, I could see the brickwork of other houses in detail and I had no pain at all. I used the antibiotic drops, steroid drops and Viscotears before properly looking at my eyes and I did have a couple of tiny red areas in the whites of my eyes as well as a rather large red area in my right eye.

The first morning (and if I'm honest, the following mornings for the next four weeks), I inspected my eyes and then cleaned my face with the Pixi Milky Tonic as I wasn't allowed to get any water into my eyes for the first few weeks. The Pixi Milky Tonic, Rose Tonic and Bioderma Micellar Water have been the only 'cleansers' I've used for the past three weeks and I cannot recommend them enough - they've been little lifesavers since my surgery. As I'm not allowed to wear eye makeup for four weeks post-surgery, I went to my first appointment (the day after the surgery) without any makeup and honestly, it wasn't as horrific of an experience as I thought I would be - no one cares if you are wearing makeup or not in a hospital!

My first appointment was very quick and thankfully the surgeon couldn't see any issues and my vision was already (less than 24 hours after the surgery) at the 20/20 level which was amazing and such an incredible thing to hear! There are so many restrictions within the first week as well as lots of drops to use throughout the day but the aftercare was surprisingly easy. The only problems I had within the first week was the dryness (which I expected and was warned about) and the headaches I had which I think were due to the amount of screen time I need for my job and how I was straining my eyes to look at everything! Also the plastic patches I had to tape onto my face each night were uncomfortable to an extent and the tape did irritate my skin but it wasn't nearly as uncomfortable or unbearable as I thought it would be.

My second post-surgery appointment was one week later and involved having my eyesight tested and my eyes measured by the optometrist as well as a quick consultation with the surgeon. Both the optometrist and surgeon were very happy with my vision which is now 0 for both eyes so there's no distortion (before the surgery it was -2.25 for both eyes) and it's now perfect! While I do still have some redness, I'm incredibly happy with the results so far.

Recovery: Weeks One - Three
I've already mentioned a little about the recovery period but I wanted to expand on it as I think that most people might assume that once you've had it done, you can go back to a normal routine immediately but that isn't the case. I personally had to use antibiotic, steroid and normal eye drops four times per day for the first week as well as having to tape plastic patches over my eyes each night for the first two weeks - it isn't a 'have the surgery and that's it' situation. The recovery wasn't difficult but it is a little time consuming and extremely important as the first week and even up to the first two months are critical for your eyes to not only heal without getting infected but also to heal as best they can as if it doesn't heal correctly then you can experience numerous problems with your vision (such as glare and halos) so recovery is not something to be casual or flippant about.

The recovery after surgery is extremely important and most people I've spoken to about laser eye surgery (who haven't had it done or aren't doctors/opticians), are shocked to know just how many restrictions there are post-surgery such as no eye makeup for a month, no swimming for six weeks, no water in your eyes for weeks, no rubbing your eyes for two months and all of the drops involved. I would say that if you are considering laser eye surgery then thinking fully about the recovery period needs to be taken into consideration beforehand and if you can, take time off work as it might be best for your eyes to heal and to potentially help prevent infection/damage to your eyes.

I personally feel as though my eyes, especially in terms of the redness, took much longer to heal than I thought it would. I also found that for the first week or so, it was difficult for me to stay at my desk and look at my screen for as long as I need to because my eyes would become dry, I had awful headaches and I felt as though I was straining my eyes which isn't something I wanted to do while my eyes were healing. Overall, the recovery wasn't too difficult but it was definitely slower than I though it would be. However, from my experiences so far and my results, I cannot recommend laser eye surgery (in particular LASIK) and the LaserVision clinic enough!

As I'm writing the end of this post (on the 21st August), it is exactly three weeks since I had the surgery and thankfully I've been able to stop wearing the plastic patches and my vision is fantastic. I do still get headaches and I have some redness within my eyes but it is slowly fading. I've been able to get back into an almost normal routine (apart from being terrified of getting water in my eyes while showering) and my vision seems very stable. I'm getting used to my perfect vision although I still can't shake the feeling of needing my glasses (when I obviously don't need them), especially when I'm getting ready to leave the house but hopefully that feeling will pass soon. Additionally, the awful dryness I experienced before the surgery and for the first ten days or so, has gone completely and I now rarely need to use my eye drops or the eye gel which is amazing! Now I'm just appreciating my perfect vision and counting down the days until I can wear mascara again - just one week to go!

I think I've wrote enough for now considering that my word count for this post is over 2,500 words...There will be a second post before the end of the year with my experience of the final stages of recovery, my last appointment at the clinic and my overall thoughts about laser eye surgery.

Let me know in the comments below if you've also had laser eye surgery and what was your experience? Or if you haven't, is it something you want to look into? Also if you have any questions, let me know in the comments.

Bomb Cosmetics Gift Ideas

Tuesday, August 20, 2019
Bomb Cosmetics has been one of my favourite bath bomb brands since I started blogging so it was extremely exciting when I became one of their Bomb Babes a couple of years ago. I am lucky enough to receive various parcels from them filled with goodies to try out and this month, they've outdone themselves as I was sent a parcel for my birthday which I was not expecting and it made my day!

My favourite products from Bomb Cosmetics have to include their bath bombs and candles, as they not only look cute but they always smell incredible too. I've been lucky enough to try quite a few of their bath blasters and I haven't found one I didn't like so I think they'd make wonderful gift ideas, along with the blaster cards, handmade soaps and naturally, their beautifully packaged gift sets.
*Bomb Cosmetics Blaster Card - Happy Baathday (£4.99)
The first item and one of the most unique (but amazing) is one of their blaster cards which are greetings cards with one or two bath blasters within them. I love the idea of a birthday, anniversary, Valentines Day, Mother's Day, Christmas or congratulatory card that also comes with a bath bomb - why hasn't anyone thought of that before. I think it's a genius idea, they all look so adorable and I'm very happy with my birthday card (it was my favourite birthday card this year). As well as the bath blasters, I'd also highly recommend the bath melts which are small but they are mighty and very long lasting in the water.
*Bomb Cosmetics Sherbet Lemon Lip Scrub (£2.49)
Another utterly adorable product has to be their lip scrubs, of which there are two new flavours ('donut worry' and 'apple crumble') but I have the lovely sherbet lemon option that instantly reminds me of Harry Potter. The packaging and mini tub are incredibly cute, I love the scent and it's an easy, effective lip scrub which is something I need all year round.

*Bomb Cosmetics Lemon Meringue Cake Soap (£2.99)
Last but not least for today's post is probably one of their most famous and recognisable products, their handmade soap. I was very kindly sent the lemon meringue pie cake soap which as well as being cute and colourful, also smells amazing. Bomb Cosmetics have to have the cutest, most delightful range of products and the prices are very reasonable too. Additionally, all three of the products I've featured are suitable for vegans, they are cruelty free and handmade, which makes them extra special.

Have you tried anything from Bomb Cosmetics


DegustaBox: July 2019

Sunday, August 18, 2019
As you might know, I had laser eye surgery a couple of weeks ago and the recovery has been much longer than I thought it would and there have been a few birthdays between then and now too so I'm a little behind with posts and reviews so today's post reviewing the July 2019 DegustaBox is a bit late (sorry!). I'm a DegustaBox ambassador so I receive the boxes for free to review. You can use the code: DTPL4 to get £5 off your first box.

*DegustaBox - July 2019 
The boxes are usually themed and the July theme was: picnic. I love the theme and the box contains a great range of cooking ingredients that can be used to make sharing picnic snacks as well as a variety of snacks and sweets that can be shared. There's a good range of brands, snack types and vegan options in the July box, although not quite an amazing range of vegan products compared to the previous couple of boxes.
*Franks Red Hot Original Cayenne (£1.50)
Let's start with one of the more exciting items I wanted to try, the Franks Red Hot sauce. Franks Red Hot is vegan and I've watched quite a few recipe videos that contain this hot sauce as the base for a BBQ sauce on baked tofu which sounds amazing. I haven't tried it in a recipe yet but I have tried it on it's own and I love it.

*Ravish Pineapple and Yuzu Salsa (£1.50)
A bit more of a dubious item was the pineapple and yuzu salsa which is an item I haven't ever come across before but I have noticed yuzu as an ingredients on various baking TV shows - especially the Bake Off: The Professionals (which I love). To be honest, I tried a teeny bit and I wasn't a fan but I knew I probably wouldn't love it.
*Ribena Frusion (£2)
One of my favourite items is the new Ribena drink which is a mix of blackcurrant water and botanicals which is naturally low in calories, free from sweeteners and filled with vitamin C. I loved this drink, it's a great easy summer drink and I will probably buy it in the future.

*Monin Butterscotch Coffee Syrup (£3)
Another of my favourite items is the Monin coffee syrup which I was very excited to find in the July box as I adore coffee and I love to try new coffee variations as well as sweeteners and syrups. I have tried the gingerbread flavour from this brand years ago and loved it so I knew I'd like this one too. I think that out of the two flavours I've tried, the gingerbread option is my favourite but I'd recommend both.
*Mister Free'd Vegan Tortilla Chips with Beetroot (£1.99)
A perfect sharing picnic snack would be tortilla chips and these are vegan! I am so happy that DegustaBox have started to include much more vegan options in their boxes, especially this year and I hope that it continues. Although I wish there was a vegan symbol on the leaflet to make it clear which items are vegan or not. The chips were great with a homemade vegan ranch (made with cashew nuts).

*Kallo Belgium Milk Chocolate Rice Cake Minis (£1.99)
Kallo is a brand I've tried before and I love their vegan stock cubes (I need to buy them again actually, especially the mushroom ones) but I haven't tried anything else from them. They contain milk so I didn't try them but my sister did and she enjoyed them as a snack. They are only 104 calories each, they are gluten free and they are suitable for vegetarians.
*Ape Snacks Coconut and Sesame Seed Bites (£1.49)
Now onto my favourite item from the box and it's an item I didn't really think I'd like as they sound quite unusual. I love coconut but I haven't tried a combination of coconut and sesame seeds before but it was so delicious and very addictive - one packet of these snacks was not enough so I will be buying these in the future!

*Deli Kitchen Greek Style Flatbread (£1.35)
One item that my parents loved and went onto buy were the Deli Kitchen flatbreads which is a new product and they're a great sandwich/bread for summer picnics. They are fluffy, easy to fold and great for kebabs or wraps. If they were vegan I think I would have absolutely loved these and I know everyone else liked these as my parents bought them.
*Simply Cook Piri Piri Meal Kit (£2.50)
Moving onto some of the last cooking ingredients and snacks, the Simply Cook meal kit is a selection of three spice and herb blends that can be added to any meal although this one is specially designed for piri piri chicken. There's also a coupon within the box to be able to get another kit for free which is great. As well as the items in the box, DegustaBox sometimes adds coupons for money off or free products within the box too.

*Rowntrees Randoms (£1.29)
The final item for the July 'picnic' box is a pair of Rowntree's Randoms sweet packets which have been included in a DegustaBox previously but for the July box, the new flavours are included. The flavours include the 'squish'ems' and the 'sours'. Sadly, they aren't vegan otherwise I would have consumed these within a few seconds.

Don't forget that you can use the code: DTPL4 to get £5 off your first box!

Have you tried any of the items? What do you think of the July DegustaBox? 


Birthday Giveaway (UK Only)

Thursday, August 15, 2019
It's my birthday! Today I am the grand old age of 27...I'm not very happy about that but there is one thing to be happy about for you, my birthday giveaway! Whenever my birthday or my blog's birthday rolls around, I always host a giveaway and this year I have a *hopefully* nice mix of prizes so there's something for everyone. The prizes range of Harry Potter socks and beauty items to a wax melt and mystery items so for your chance to win, fill out the Rafflecopter form below.
The giveaway is UK only as shipping will be pretty pricy and as some of you might know, my eye surgery was quite expensive so sadly this giveaway is for UK residents only. The prizes are all full size, new and range from lifestyle items to beauty. The winner will be announced on Twitter on the 1st September - good luck!

- Harry Potter Unisex Socks
- Tranquility Cosmetics 'Snow Fairie' Wax Melt (yes, it smells exactly like Snow Fairy from Lush)
- Elegant Touch False Nails (x2)
- Real Techniques Three Miracle Sponges
- Biscuiteers Royal Baby Rattle Biscuit
- Mystery Prizes (x2)

This winner has been contacted - thanks for entering!

Have you entered my giveaway? 

Trollbeads Bracelet ft. Joshua James Jewellery

Wednesday, August 14, 2019
August is my birthday month and recently I've been sent a wonderful array of goodies from so many brands (you can see all of my blogger mail and unboxings on my instagram - @ofbeautyand) so it has felt like my birthday with every package. One of my favourite parcels has been from the lovely people at Joshua James Jewellery! I was very kindly allowed to choose a bracelet and charms from Trollbeads via Joshua James Jewellery and I'm so happy with the end result.

*Trollbeads Sterling Silver Bracelet (£40)
I haven't tried anything from Trollbeads prior to making this bracelet so I didn't fully know which items I needed to complete the bracelet but after a quick read through the Trollbeads website, I concluded that you need the bracelet, a lock and whatever charms you need (you may also need a spacer or two if you have a lot of charms). The bracelet I chose was the sterling silver bracelet in the 17cm size but there are various sizes to choose from including 13cm to 22cm so there's a size option for everyone. As well as the sterling silver option, there's also a gold version and pre-made bracelets too.
As I said, I haven't tried Trollbeads before and I wasn't able to try on the bracelet beforehand as I'd ordered it online, so I think with hindsight I would have gone with the 16cm size instead but I can still wear this one thanks to the charms making the bracelet a little smaller. The sterling silver bracelet is 100% sterling silver and it has a 'foxtail' chain which is designed for elegance and strength as well as being able to allow the beads to flow easily.

The bracelet came with the charms and lock already on it which I'm thankfully for and it came beautifully packaged within an official Trollbeads box which looks so elegant and unique. I think aesthetically it would make a lovely gift, especially if you choose the charms, lock and spacers specifically for your gift recipient as it would become a more personalised gift.
*Trollbeads Silver Lace Lock (£40)
The lock that I chose was the 'lace lock' which has such a beautiful floral design that I thought would fit well with my theme for the bracelet which was 'nature'. The lock, as with the bracelet, is made of 100% sterling silver so the tone and finish matches the bracelet. There are quite a few locks to choose from, most of which look very unique and unlike anything else I've seen on a charm bracelet. The options vary from a plain lock, animal themed and floral lock to a gold, mixed metal and elaborate twisted locks. I'm very happy with mine and I think it looks perfect with the beads I've chosen.

*Trollbeads Spring Leaves Charm (£23)
As my theme was 'nature', the first charm I had to choose was this adorable 'spring leaves' charm which is a pair of little falling leaves. It's composed of 925 sterling silver. Spring and autumn are my favourite season and they are both characterised by leaves so I felt as though this charm would be perfect for my bracelet and theme.
*Trollbeads Hydrangea Silver Bead (£30)
Sticking with the theme of nature and sterling silver is the next charm which is the one that matches my lock perfectly. I had to choose a floral charm for my bracelet and the 'hydrangea' charm seemed like the best fit with the charms and lock I had already opted for. I love how it looks on the bracelet, especially alongside the leaves charm and the aventurine bead. The design is simple but so pretty, feminine which is the jewellery style I'm most drawn to.

*Trollbeads Aventurine Bead (£40)
Lastly, I had to pick one of the glass/stone beads as they look so beautiful. I was torn between this gorgeous Aventurine bead and the Mamma Mia, Pink Desert, White Stripe and Traces glass beads - they're all too pretty! I'm happy with my choice of the Aventurine bead as I think that the colour matches the sterling silver charms and bracelet well and it fits in with the theme. I'm glad I did add a colourful bead as I think that only sterling silver beads wouldn't be as attractive on the whole, in my opinion.

Have you shopped on Joshua James Jewellery before? What do you think of my Trollbeads bracelet?


*Alder Hey Children's Charity + Daniels Story

Tuesday, August 13, 2019
Today's post is a little different to my usual content but it's about a very important charity, one of their amazing charity ambassadors and the incredible work done at the Alder Hey Children's Hospital which isn't too far away from Manchester in the amazing city of Liverpool. I'm sharing Daniel's story today which demonstrates the invaluable service and work at Alder Hey Children's Hospital. I will also be sharing the new Running Hub which has been created to inspire and motivate individuals to run for Alder Hey Children's Charity. Daniel was part of the 2018 Matalan PJs campaign and the 2019 is going to be announced soon.

Daniel's Story 
For the first few years of Daniel Bell’s life, he was like any other toddler, full of energy, happy and full of life at home in Ormskirk, but doctors soon discovered Daniel had a brain tumour the size of a fist. At aged three, mum Rosalind and dad Colin, had noticed a change in Daniel’s behaviour. He wasn’t the same happy go lucky toddler he used to be. Rosalind explains “His personality literally changed. He was grumpy had lots of tantrums, was sick and went back to sleeping in the day too, which was the total opposite of what he was previously.”

Thankfully Rosalind recognised some of the symptoms of a brain tumour. Daniel was taken to Ormskirk A&E who quickly realised the severity of the situation and Daniel diagnosed with a brain tumour. Daniel was rushed straight to Alder Hey which is a centre of excellence for brain conditions. “It was like the bottom had fallen out of my world, our lives changed in a split second. We were told he needed to go to Alder Hey right away and we were blue-lighted to Liverpool,” says Rosalind. 

Once at Alder Hey, Daniel was taken straight to theatre where Neurosurgeon Ms Sasha Burns drained fluid on his brain during a 3 hour life-saving operation and the next day Daniel’s tumour was removed during a 9 hour operation by Mr Conor Mallucci, who recently featured in BBC2 documentary Hospital. “Mr Mallucci told us that Daniel had a cystic tumour which was the size of an adult’s fist and there was a possibility of Daniel losing motor and mobility skills as the result of the procedure,” explained Rosalind.

The operation was a success, helped by the use of Alder Hey’s 3-T MRI scanner, a pioneering scanner which allows surgeons to scan the brain in theatre. Alder Hey is the first hospital in Europe to have this kit, which was paid for by Alder Hey Children’s Charity. “It was 6pm when we heard that Daniel was out of theatre. We were approaching HDU to see him when we heard Daniel shouting at the nurses. I have to admit it was the best sound ever,” said Rosalind. “Mr Mallucci said that the operation ‘went perfectly’ and that he had successfully managed to remove the whole of Daniel’s tumour. We spent 6 days on HDU to recover and then went to the neuro ward for a week. The nurses were incredible,” said Rosalind. Rosalind said: “When we got the scans from Oncology which told us that no further treatment was needed it was an amazing relief. I cried a lot after that.”

Daniel is now a healthy and very active little boy and also a budding actor. “Daniel is really happy. He is a cheeky little kid and he loves being with his friends. He has performed in Little Shop of Horrors with his local Performing Arts Club and he loves to raise money for Alder Hey Children’s Charity.” As a result of his fundraising, Daniel was named a Fundraising Ambassador for Alder Hey Children’s Charity, which made everyone in the Bell family very proud. “I was really emotional when they told us that Daniel was to be an ambassador for the charity. It is an honour and a privilege,” said Rosalind. “Alder Hey is such an inspirational place full of amazing people. The staff put the children first often at the expense of their own time. It is impossible to put into words how world class they are at what they do. We are fortunate to have them on our doorsteps.”

Alder Hey Children's Charity & Running Hub 
As with most charities, they need to fundraise to fund the amazing services they provide and Alder Hey is no exception. There are many ways to support charities and a common option is a sponsored run for charity which is where the Running Hub comes in. It is a site created to help motivate individuals to run, bake, walk or swim to raise money for charity. Their fundraising pack (which you can check out on the Running Hub site) is full of amazing tips and ideas to help you set up a sponsored event, how to fundraise and what to do, whether it's a charity bake sale at your place of work, a charity dinner with a local restaurant, selling items and donating the money or a fun run, for example.

Are you aware of the amazing work done at Alder Hey Children's Hospital and their charity? Have you ever taken part in a charity event? 

**Information and quotes from Alder Hey Children's Hospital 

*Easy Vegan Meal Ideas + Tips ft. Hello Fresh

Sunday, August 11, 2019
As some of you might know, from the beginning of 2019, I switched my diet to become fully vegan and it was been incredible; mainly because my eczema is 95% gone completely from my face and hands and it has been almost non-existent for the entire year so far which I never thought would happen!

Whenever I cook vegan meals for others, they usually assume that it's difficult, the ingredients will be very specialised and expensive or that the meals take an age to cook but none of those are true! In my experience of cooking vegetarian meals for over half of my life and vegan meals on and off for around five years, it is not difficult, very expensive or time consuming. Although if you want imported or very specific products then it could be but that's true for a non-vegan diet as well.

Within today's post, I'm going to be sharing three of my go-to meals for lazy days, all of which are quick, easy and relatively cheap to make. None of the recipes are very time consuming or difficult so if you aren't confident in the kitchen or if you are experimenting with vegan food then hopefully these three will be great beginner options to try. There are also some vegan and lazy cooking tips below too!

Butternut Squash or Sweet Potato Curry
The first option is the most time consuming but it isn't difficult! I have a full recipe on my blog for a similar chickpea and sweet potato curry with garlic cauliflower rice if you want to recreate the recipe photographed above but alternatively you could check out the creamy butternut squash curry on the Hello Fresh website which is very easy to follow with step by step photographs.

A curry of any kind but especially a mild butternut squash or sweet potato curry is a great all around, crowd pleasing option as who doesn't like a delicious, comforting curry. It is an easy recipe to batch cook if you don't have much time, it is quick to meal prep and it is low calorie but nutritious so it's an ideal option for those watching their weight and calories as I am.

Lazy Tip: pre-chopped butternut squash or sweet potato will save so much time. Also if you want a lower calorie option, you can add more veggies and less rice or you can use low fat coconut milk.

Mac 'n' Cheese 
Everyone loves macaroni cheese and while the dairy version can taste utterly delicious, it always made me feel incredibly guilty; however the plethora of vegan options are just as mouthwatering but they are sometimes lower in calories and the flavour options are endless. I have two main options for cooking vegan macaroni cheese, the first is a healthy lower calorie option and the second is a very quick...not so healthy option.

The healthy macaroni cheese involves roasting butternut squash (potatoes and carrots as well, if you want) then blending it in my Nutribullet with non-dairy milk, garlic and herbs to make a velvety, creamy but healthy macaroni cheese-like sauce.

The second, super quick option is to use the Alpro soya cream which is a single cream alternative (that I've gone through countless tubs of) and gently heat it in a saucepan with garlic and a couple of slices of original Violife cheese until it becomes thicker and gooey - the texture of this sauce is spot on for the more gooey American style mac 'n' cheese.

Lazy Tip: a Nutribullet is an amazing, super quick tool to make incredibly creamy, velvety smooth sauces and dips from a variety of nuts and vegetables instead of buying (potentially expensive) pre-made sauces. I bought mine four or five years ago and it is still going strong so I think it is well worth buying.

Lemon Pasta 
Last but not least is my favourite option for a quick, fresh summer meal that I can make in around ten minutes. My recipe follows the same quick cheese sauce above using Violife cheese but I also add in tarragon and lemon rind (not the juice, NOT THE JUICE). I use around half a lemon rind, finely grated to add in a subtle lemon flavour as the juice is just too strong. If you want a bit more of a nutritious option then you can follow the Hello Fresh 'power of the gods' recipe which I am going to have to veganize and recreate soon.

Lazy Tip: Frozen pre-chopped veggies are are easy addition to any pasta dish as you can add them into the water as the pasta as it is cooking. Also for quick extra flavour, garlic salt, onion salt and garlic pepper as well as dried herbs are essential.

Hello Fresh
I hope these meal ideas inspired you to create vegan alternatives but if you are struggling with time to cook or for meal ideas then check out the Hello Fresh recipe boxes which are delivered straight to your door with all of the ingredients you'll need to create the recipe you've chosen, including the curry and pasta options I've already mentioned. They have such a wide range of meal ideas and boxes to choose from for a range of dietary needs, cooking abilities and family size, so you're bound to find a recipe box to suit you.

What do you think of these vegan meal ideas? Have you tried Hello Fresh? 


*My Current Anxiety + Stress Helpers

Friday, August 09, 2019
If you've been following me on social media recently then you'll know that last week I had laser eye surgery and while it is a common operation, I was very happy with the experienced surgeon and the clinic I opted for, it was still a very anxiety inducing, nerve wracking experience - both before and afterwards. So I wanted to share some of the tips and products I use when I'm feeling anxious or stressed as this is what I've been relying on for the past week.

The first and one of the most important is a pair of effective earphones, preferably earphones that are noise cancelling. I use my earphones not only to listen to music, films, TV and Youtube as a distraction but also just the noise cancelling effects can help me so much. The muffled quiet the earphones provide allows me to shut out the outside world and loud noises that can make me even more anxious and if I'm honest, I mostly wear the earphones at night as I can't fall asleep unless there is very little noise.

I couldn't wear my earphones during the surgery as I needed to listen to the surgeon at times but being able to listen to music on the way to the hospital definitely helped with my pre-surgery stress and anxiety. I know that some earphones can be very expensive but I think that investing in a pair of wireless, noise cancelling earphones can be invaluable.

After a break of almost ten years, I started reading again in 2017 and since then it's become one of my go to stress relievers and anxiety helpers. Some of my favourite genres include: fantasy, non-fiction and historical fiction so they are the books I immediately reach for. Every time I publish my monthly reading wrap-up posts, I receive numerous comments about how I read so much and I think it's due to a few things: reading when I feel anxious or stressed, taking a book with me on the go and how I manage my time as I prefer to read rather than scrolling through my phone or watching the same TV show again and again.

Letting Go
I know that it is incredibly irritating receiving the advice of 'stop worrying' or 'stop thinking about it' but I will say that trying to let go can definitely help. I try to tell myself that whatever is making me anxious is something I cannot control and I should stop worrying about something that I will just have to deal with. Trying to rationalise my thoughts, trying to stop focusing on my anxiety/stress and letting go of negative, anxious thoughts can help so much but naturally it's much easier said than done.

Self Care & Distractions 
Lastly, basic self care such as having a bubble bath, pampering, eating your favourite foods, treating yourself and putting yourself first can help relieve stress and anxious thoughts. I also find that another benefit of pampering, spending time with friends and taking part in your favourite hobbies is that it can be a great distraction and sometimes that is all you need to reduce stress. If the issues persist or become worse, perhaps you could visit your GP for advice.

What do you think of my tips? Do you have any tips for reducing stress and anxiety? 

*this is a collaborative post

Daisy London x Estee Lalonde

Thursday, August 08, 2019
Youtuber Estee Lalonde, along with Fleur, has been one of the youtubers I've watched for the longest time. I adore her style, her hair, her makeup, her dog, just her. So naturally when she released a collection with Daisy London I was extremely excited but sadly, my laser eye surgery (that I had last week - there will be a post coming soon) was much more expensive than I thought it would be so jewellery wasn't something I felt as though I should be buying...but I wanted to.

You can imagine my excitement when I was emailed about reviewing a couple of necklaces from Estee's collection! I already had my eye on a couple of the gold necklaces (all of which looked amazing on Estee) and her rings, especially the sunburst ring which isn't something I'd usually like but I'm loving the golden summer vibes of this collection.
*Daisy London Portobello Mini Candle (£19)
Along with the two necklaces I was very kindly sent, I also received a surprise candle! I didn't know that they sold candles but upon further investigation, they have the mini 'portobello' candle which is the one I was sent and they have a candle in collaboration with Estee - both of which look gorgeous. The mini candle is 90ml and it contains notes of amber and sandalwood so it has a very musky, rich and warm scent which I utterly adore. The scent is making me wish it was autumn as I use candles primarily within the autumn months and the notes are very autumnal, in my opinion.
*Daisy London x Estee Lalonde Short Snake Chain Necklace (£75)
Both necklaces came beautifully packaged in a Daisy London gift bag as well as pouch and a sleek presentation box so aesthetically it would make for a gorgeous gift, especially if the gift bag contains one of Estee's pieces or one of their candles.

The first of the two necklaces is the 'short snake chain' necklace which is inspired by 70's glam and vintage jewellery. It's composed of 18ct gold plated stirling silver and the short chain length is 16" - there's also a longer length which is 18". The necklace is the perfect length for layering as it isn't too short and it isn't long enough to quickly become tangled with any other necklaces. It's also a thicker, herringbone chain so it isn't likely to become knotted on or while being stored.
I've been wearing the short chain with a casual outfit alongside the gorgeous sunburst shield necklace which is also gold and they look amazing together. I didn't know if the shorter chain and the longer pendant-like necklace would suit me when worn in combination but I think think that they look so chic together - although not as chic on me when compared to the stunning Estee!

My favourite thing about the chain is the way it looks in the sun as it has a beautiful shine and shimmer when the light catches it! Most items of jewellery have a polished shiny finish but these two necklaces from Daisy London are on another level; the shimmering effect makes it look even more perfect for summer. It isn't surprising that a collection created by the radiant Estee is the jewellery embodiment of a fresh, sparkling summer day as that's exactly how Estee comes across in her videos and social media.
*Daisy London x Estee Lalonde Sunburst Shield Necklace (£169)
The second necklace is my favourite of the two, although they are both utterly gorgeous! As with the previous necklace, it's composed of 18ct gold plated stirling silver and the chain length is adjustable between 22" to 24" depending on the hoop you secure it with. It is inspired by 70's vintage styling and the sunburst design symbolises happiness and protection which I feel is very Estee and in keeping with her lifestyle and generally upbeat outlook.

Hopefully you can see the length in the photograph below (you can also find more photographs and my unboxing on my instagram - @ofbeautyand) but it it quite a bit longer than the short chain; however I think they look beautiful together. I've tried layering necklaces in the past and I'd given up on the whole as they always seemed to look unusual together but these two look perfect with a summer casual outfit (or it would be ideal with a more formal look as both items look very minimal and elegant).
I've worn both of the necklaces together with my Nordgreen Infinity Gold Mesh Watch and I adore the way they all look together. I've never been an avid jewellery or watch fan but since finding so many beautiful minimal pieces recently, I think I've finally found a style that suits me. I've also always been more of a silver or rose gold jewellery lover but again, the Daisy London x Estee Lalonde collection is changing my mind, especially as all of her pieces just radiate summer positivity and joy!

Overall, I was so incredibly happy when this parcel arrived, especially as I did want to try this collection since it was released and leading up to my eye surgery I was very anxious so it was a lovely parcel to receive, not only to wear but to also distract myself! I cannot recommend this collection enough as it's so beautiful and the presentation makes any of the items (whether it's a necklace, candle, ring or bracelet) a luxurious, special gift or treat for yourself.

What do you think of the Daisy London x Estee Lalonde collection?